Canada: High grain prices hit home

Farmers Weekly rounds up a year’s news through the eyes of farmers across the globe. Today we hear from Don and Wendy Chalack in Canada

Don and Wendy Chalack farm 364ha of land in Alberta, Canada. They milk 50 pure-bred Holsteins and run a beef operation.

The two major impacts on our farming sector in the past month have been the drought in the USA and in eastern Canada, which has caused the price of feed to rocket. Wheat has increased from

$7 to $8 (£4.37 to £5) a bushel and hay has risen from $200/t to $250/t (£125/t to £156/t).

While strong grain prices were a boon for many Canadian farmers, the cost of feeding grain to livestock pummeled many others. Saskatchewan’s Big Sky Farms – one of Canada’s biggest pig producers – was forced into receivership in September; a rival, Puratone, sought creditor protection shortly afterward.

The beef industry was rocked by a food scare as E coli was found in a major slaughter plant in September.

Key facts

Population 34.4 million

Average rainfall 537mm

Agricultural area 67m ha

Despite its huge land area of close to 1bn ha, just 6.8% is used for agriculture

Cattle prices were shaken when federal food inspectors suspended the licence at XL Foods in Alberta after 17 people fell ill. The world’s biggest meat packer, Brazil’s JBS, has since signed a management deal to operate the plant with an option to buy.

The value of farmland has increased significantly. Land value in our region has increased by 30% in the past eight months. Now is a good time to be farming in this part of the world.

The year 2012 also marked the final chapter in the history of the Prairie grain handling co-operatives, whose assets once formed Canada’s largest grain company, Viterra Inc.

In March, the company opened its arms to a $6.1bn (£3.8bn) bid from Swiss commodity giant Glencore International.

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